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How Marijuana Weakens Your Immune System

a person blows their nose and wonders how marijuana weakens the immune system

In recent years, marijuana use has become increasingly accepted in American society. This rise in popularity is due, in part, to the drug’s widespread reputation as a more or less harmless substance. However, the use of marijuana can lead to a range of significant health issues. One such issue is the potential of the drug to weaken the normal function of your immune system. This potential is one reason you may need help from a marijuana addiction treatment program.

Marijuana and the Immune System

Your immune function is essentially your body’s ability to protect you against various kinds of infections. To maintain this function, you rely on a complex system that includes your:

  • White blood cells
  • Blood proteins called antibodies
  • Lymph nodes
  • Thymus gland
  • Bone marrow
  • Spleen

How does marijuana affect this system? The drug contains a group of active chemicals known as cannabinoids. These chemicals mimic the effects of natural substances in your body called endocannabinoids. Sites called endocannabinoid receptors are in several different parts of your immune system. When you use marijuana, these receptors activate. In turn, they allow the drug to alter your normal immune function.

Dangers of a Weakened Immune System

When your immune system is weakened, it can’t respond as readily to potential threats. This condition can leave you vulnerable to a range of infections and health issues. These may include influenza, pneumonia, common colds, or even more serious conditions like HIV/AIDS. In addition, marijuana use can interfere with the effectiveness of certain medications used to treat these illnesses.

Some other risks of a weakened immune system include:

  • Increased risk of cancer
  • Difficulty fighting off infections
  • Poor wound healing
  • Compromised ability to fight autoimmune diseases

If you’re using marijuana, it’s important to understand the risks it poses to your immune system.

Does Marijuana Weaken Your Immune System?

How does marijuana lower your immune system function? Research shows that the drug can do this in multiple ways. For example, when you use marijuana, your system increases its output of immune suppressor cells. As their name indicates, these cells suppress, or lower, your typical immune function.

Marijuana use may also increase the production of two types of substances within your immune system. One of these substances, called an inflammatory cytokine, sends signals that increase your levels of tissue inflammation. The second, called C-reactive protein, results from higher inflammation levels.

How Marijuana Weakens the Immune System: Lung Effects

What are the potential consequences of marijuana’s impact on your immune system? One area of concern is your lung function. Studies show that people who smoke marijuana have heightened risks for issues such as:

  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Increased production of sputum, or respiratory mucus
  • Airway inflammation
  • Chronic bronchitis
  • Reduced lung function

Marijuana users also have higher levels of potentially cancerous cells in their sputum. In addition, the use of the drug may increase the risk of respiratory infections. Frequent marijuana users have increased odds of seeking help for lung problems.

Marijuana Effects on the Immune System: Addiction Risks

Marijuana’s immune system effects may also have another, more surprising consequence. Namely, they may help increase your risk of becoming addicted. How is this possible?

The answer lies in the drug’s ability to increase inflammatory cytokines and C-reactive protein levels. You tend to feel more anxious when your immune system produces more of these substances. You also tend to feel more stressed out.

Ironically, these feelings may lead you to use more marijuana. In turn, this rising rate of use can eventually lead to a physical dependence on the drug. It also increases your risks for psychological dependence and compulsive, drug-seeking behavior. Together, these three factors form the basis for marijuana or cannabis addiction.

If you’re concerned about your potential risks for marijuana use disorders, help is available. Specialty programs such as Northpoint Colorado offer comprehensive evidence-based treatment interventions to address the physical and psychological effects of substance abuse.

Learn More About Marijuana’s Immune System Effects at Northpoint Colorado

Want more information on marijuana and your immune system? Talk to the professionals at Northpoint Colorado. We’re happy to provide greater detail on the drug’s potential impact on your immune function. We’ll also help you understand your risks for other potential issues, including marijuana abuse and addiction.

Need help with the symptoms of abuse or addiction? Northpoint Colorado is standing by. We feature a specialized marijuana treatment program. This program provides customized support for both your short- and long-term recovery. To learn more, call us today at 888.231.1281. You can also fill out our online message form.